Lead Japan, Korea and China Asia

Embassy of Japan

"Sino-Japanese Relations in the New Era"

1 Introduction

I am Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. Thank you very much for coming. My special thanks go to the representatives of the Yomiuri International Economic Society who gave me this opportunity to speak to you today.

For my lecture today, I have chosen relations with our neighbor China from among the numerous topics in the field of foreign policy, and I would like to speak about the relationship between Japan and China, which is a very important bilateral relationship for Japan. Both countries must shape their relations in such a way that they are appropriate for the new era. I want to talk about that today. What does that mean: a new era? If you look at the past twenty years, the positions of Japan and China within the international balance of power have changed significantly. At the same time, we are living in an era in which our two countries, as the world's second and third largest economies, have a great responsibility for peace and prosperity both worldwide and in this region. In such an era, there are also tasks and concerns between Japan and China. Both countries, however, are neighbors that cannot simply move to another location. I think our countries have only one option, and that is to make a common contribution to the world through friendship and cooperation.

"The greatest task that both countries must fulfill is to use efforts for mutual understanding to advance the relations between Japan and China in an even more comprehensive manner, so that both can contribute to international peace and stability in Asia." These are the words of former Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira, who actively campaigned for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and China. He spoke to them during his visit to China in 1979, a year after the Sino-Japan peace and friendship treaty was signed. Former Prime Minister Ohira is not only one of my predecessors in the office of foreign minister, but also in the office of chairman of the Kochikai, an important LDP faction. Almost three and a half years have passed since I took over the post of Foreign Minister, but I can clearly feel that these words of Ohira continue to be of great importance today.

Unless something else comes up, I will travel to China at the end of this month and have an open dialogue with the Chinese side, thus starting the process of shaping Sino-Japanese relations that are appropriate for the new era.

2. The past: looking back on the path so far and remembering the efforts of our ancestors

In November 2014, the heads of government and foreign ministers of Japan and China met for talks at the APEC summit in Beijing. In doing so, both countries set out on the course for improving bilateral relations. As Foreign Minister, I too have been very committed to further consolidating this improvement in relations.

Japan and China look back on more than two thousand years of mutual exchange. In May last year, President Xi Jinping told members of a bilateral delegation for tourism and culture exchanges: “Japan and China are separated by a narrow strip of water. For the past two thousand years, peace and friendship have been the keynote in the hearts of our two peoples. Both have learned from each other, taken each other as role models and followed their respective paths. At the same time, our countries have made significant contributions to the advancement of human civilization. ”The Chinese script, Buddhism and Confucianism, the delegations at the time of the Sui and Tang dynasties, who set out from Japan to China to learn the sciences and culture of China: There are countless examples of what Japan has received through exchanges with China. Well-known facts include development cooperation worth more than three trillion yen and the capital and technology that Japan has provided through investments and business activities that have made great contributions to the development of China.

In Sino-Japanese relations, next year we will be celebrating the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations; 2018 will mark the fortieth anniversary of the conclusion of the peace and friendship treaty. In view of these upcoming anniversaries, I would like to remind you once again of the story in the course of which our ancestors learned from each other's strengths in a spirit of mutual respect and respect and in this way supported each other in their further development.

3. The present: current status of bilateral relations and fundamental considerations

Japan and China are now the third and second largest economies in the world. The two countries are increasingly linked by ties that can no longer be broken. For Japan, China is the most important trading partner, while conversely our country is the second most important trading partner for China. Around 23,000 Japanese companies are active in China, which have created a large number of jobs.

In terms of people-to-people exchanges, 4.99 million Chinese visited Japan last year, more than twice as many as last year - a new record. This trend has continued this year: In the first quarter of 2016, the number of visitors from China increased by sixty percent compared to the same period in the previous year. At the same time, 130,000 Japanese live in China; this means that the country is home to the second largest Japanese community abroad in the world. There is also a close network of various kinds of exchange opportunities at the regional level; There are also 362 municipalities in China and Japan that maintain a partnership with a municipality in the other country.

Recently, the slowing pace of the Chinese economy is a cause for concern, and Japan is also closely monitoring the situation. At the same time, however, these concerns are evidence of the high hopes the world has in China's economy. According to the Chinese government, the country's GDP grew by 6.9 percent in real terms last year. This means a decrease compared to previous years, but in fact the growth rate is still very high; The proportion of growth alone is sufficient to keep up with the GDP of countries that are among the top twenty countries worldwide. With a population of over 1.3 billion people, China still has enormous potential and will continue to be a very important market in the future.

In view of this, in order for the Chinese government to be able to ensure stable and sustainable development, it is resolutely tackling a number of tasks. These include, for example, reducing overcapacities in the production area, reforming state-owned enterprises and structural reforms, e.g. to reduce poverty. This is to be assessed as consistently positive. Japan is offering China its cooperation in this regard so that the country can implement further structural reforms and develop peacefully. At the same time, we have great expectations in China that, together with Japan, it will assume an even greater responsibility for the realization of peace and prosperity in the region and worldwide.

On the one hand, it is a fact that because Japan and China are neighbors, we share numerous tasks and concerns. However, so far we have always mastered these challenges with the help of our shared wisdom and creativity. The four fundamental documents on the relationship between Japan and China and the four points agreed the year before last can serve as evidence of these efforts. As part of this process, while affirming that they are "partners who work together and do not threaten each other," both sides continue to develop strategic relationships for mutual benefit. Now both (1) by expanding cooperation, (2) by tackling the tasks and worries, and (3) by promoting mutual understanding and trusting relationships between the people of both countries, as mentioned at the beginning of this lecture, both have to speak Japanese -Shaping Chinese relationships appropriate to the new era. Japan is ready to do all it can to achieve this. However, if only one side makes an effort, there will be no progress in bilateral relations. I therefore hope that China will also cooperate with us in an open-minded manner.

4. The future Sino-Japanese relations

(1) Expansion of cooperation

Of the three points I have just made in relation to our commitment, the first point is to broaden our collaboration. There are many areas in the relationship between Japan and China where cooperation is beneficial to both sides, and I think there is great potential here that can be further exploited.

Among the tasks that China is currently facing are environmental pollution, such as air and water pollution, or the cleaning up of bad loans, all problems that Japan is also experiencing in the course of its rapid economic growth and the bursting of the bubble economy has solved. In our experience, there are certainly also aspects that can help China cope with its tasks. We are ready to cooperate with China as much as possible in these tasks. I think that there will be great opportunities for both Japan and the international community if China can cope with the various tasks and continue its peaceful development.

One of the areas where this can be done is in disaster prevention. After the recent earthquake in Kumamoto, President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed their sincere condolences. We also received numerous requests from China via the Internet for rapid reconstruction and the well-being of the people affected. When the severe earthquake hit eastern Japan five years ago, the government and the people of China gave us their helping hands. During the severe earthquake in Sichuan in 2008, a Japanese rescue team immediately rushed to the affected region; There was extensive coverage in China of the operation of this team, which wanted to save as many people as possible. Natural disasters know no national borders, and it is impossible to predict who will be hit by them and when. Japan and China need to share the lessons learned from natural disasters, expand their civil protection capabilities, and help each other promptly if a disaster occurs. This is what contributes to the peace and security of the people in both countries.

Measures related to the decline in the birth rate and the aging of society are also an urgent task for both countries and an area in which cooperation is of great importance. China, with its one-child policy, has been facing rapid demographic change since the 1980s. If it actively uses the experience and knowledge that Japan has already gained in this area, it does not need to take unnecessary detours. At the same time, the establishment of institutions and systems for corresponding measures as well as the increased training of personnel in this area also mean great opportunities for new entrepreneurial activities for Japanese companies, which already have a lot of know-how in this area.

In addition, there are the areas of energy saving and the environment or the safety of food. Not only are these tasks directly related to the health of Chinese citizens and Japanese citizens living in China, but they also constitute a cross-border problem that also affects Japan itself. But it is also the other way around. So there is still enough room for expansion of the cooperation.

After all, there are numerous other areas of activity in which our countries should fulfill their responsibility for the region and the international community and make a contribution to solving global tasks. These are urgent tasks in view of the increasingly gloomy prospects for the world economy; Here Japan at the G7 and China at the G20 summit, both of which are organizing this year, have to initiate a thorough discussion about what should be done for the global economy. With regard to the problem of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile tests, too, it is of great importance that all states involved, including Japan and China, work closely together and show a united stance. Many of the global tasks are also tasks that Japan and China have to face internally, and almost all of them have enough leeway for cooperation. With the help of this cooperation in particular, I would like to shape Japanese-Chinese relationships that are appropriate for the new era.

(2) Addressing the tasks and concerns

The second of the three listed commitments is to tackle the existing tasks and concerns. Precisely because Japan and China are neighbors, they have to persevere in numerous tasks and worries. Frankly speaking, the rapid and untransparent increase in defense spending, the propagation of the goal of a “great maritime power” and the ongoing unilateral changes in the status quo in the East and South China Seas are not only satisfying the people in Japan, but also in the countries of the Asian region. Pacific and in the international community as a whole with concern.

Japan and China have enjoyed development and stability under the existing norms and order of the international community, and have created the prosperity they enjoy today. It is precisely the network of exchanges of people and goods across the peaceful and open seas that has brought about prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. Both countries have a duty to protect these open seas on the basis of rules and to preserve the future prosperity of the region.

Those who act on the basis of rules are able to gain the trust of the region and the international community as a whole. Compliance with the rules is beneficial to China itself. Its membership in the WTO, which Japan supported, contributed to China's economic development. If there are rules within the existing rules that do not correspond to the current situation in the world, then these must not be changed through unilateral action; rather, they must be improved peacefully and through dialogue. In order to tackle these tasks and concerns, I believe that a dialogue must take place between Japan and China, which should be conducted even more openly than before and which also encompasses the level of heads of government and ministers.

Nineteen years ago, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, I visited China at the invitation of the Chinese side. It was my first trip to China as a member of parliament. The exchange of views that I had with the representatives of the Chinese government at that time always began with mutual assurances that they wanted to talk openly with one another. But if the conversation turned to topics with different points of view, dealing with one another often became emotional. It ended with not saying a lot of what you actually wanted to say. I still clearly remember how angry I was about it every time. It is easy to speak of an open dialogue, but difficult to actually conduct it.

Nevertheless, with the help of a dialogue we have to learn to understand each other, look for solutions and tackle the tasks and worries. At this point I would like to emphasize that we will by no means give up our efforts with regard to relations with China.

(3) Promotion of mutual understanding and trusting relationships between the people of both countries

The third point where we need to step up our engagement is to promote mutual understanding between the people of both countries. This point is indeed very important. Unfortunately, the feelings towards one another of the people who are the pillars of Sino-Japanese relations have worsened.

According to a Cabinet Office poll last year, the proportion of Japanese responding “having no affection for China” hit a new record high of 83.2 percent. In 1979, a year after the Sino-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty was signed, just 20.3 percent of the Japanese had given such an answer. The deterioration in people's feelings in Japan towards China is extraordinarily serious.

At the same time, in another survey in 2014, 86.8 percent of Chinese responded that they “do not have a good image” of Japan.Last year that percentage fell to 78.3 percent, but for many Chinese, feelings towards Japan have not really improved. Diplomatic relationships that are not underpinned by people's feelings of friendship are weak. If this situation persists, it is to be feared that the Japanese-Chinese relations will develop into a mirage.

In order to shape appropriate bilateral relations for the new era, too, we must stop this trend and improve the situation. The best way to do this is to build trusting relationships with the help of a direct exchange between people. It is not for nothing that they say: seeing once is better than hearing a hundred times.

During his 1979 visit, Prime Minister Ohira said: “The most important thing in relations between two countries is a firm trust that binds people's hearts together. Above all, this trust must be based on mutual understanding between people. ”He continued:“ It is by no means easy to get to know each other really well. ”With regard to Japan and China, which differ from both the systems and the Mentality differ, he warned: "Here we really have to make great efforts." At that time, the mood between Japan and China was still characterized by friendly feelings; the fact that Prime Minister Ohira said this at the time can be taken as a kind of warning from his side that he foresaw the future state of bilateral relations.

In order to strengthen mutual understanding between the two peoples, the government of Japan runs youth exchange programs. The Chinese high school students who visit Japan as part of these programs often tell us that when they return they will tell the people around them about the fascination of our country and the friendship in the hearts of Japanese people. In addition, almost all Chinese participants regularly declare that their image of Japan has improved through these exchange programs.

Starting this year, we will also be inviting 1,000 young people from China and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region to Japan every year as part of a new program to show them the importance of environmental protection and disaster prevention and to promote their knowledge in these areas. These young people in Japan will also take part in exchange activities as part of reforestation and tree-planting campaigns.

President Xi Jinping said in May last year, “I sincerely wish that the young people in both countries would strengthen their friendship, actively cooperate and tirelessly sow the seeds of friendship so that the affection between Japan and China would become a great tree that the friendship in the hearts of the citizens of both countries will be passed on to our children and grandchildren. ”I too would like to convey this wish to the young people in both countries. We must educate a new generation and hand over the baton of Sino-Japanese friendship to them; To this end, the exchange between young people must be deepened.

When it comes to exchanges between young people, the universities in both countries also maintain a wide range of exchanges. I myself studied at Waseda University and I was told that this university was one of the most famous Japanese universities in China. Waseda University began accepting large numbers of students from China as early as 1905. These included Liao Chengzhi, the first chairman of the Sino-Japanese Friendship Society, who was responsible for bilateral relations before the establishment of diplomatic relations. Waseda University has its own offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and over two hundred students study at the university in China every year. Among them are some who have graduated from Beijing University or other universities. I also heard that Waseda University currently has more than 1,800 Chinese students, and there are currently over 94,000 Chinese students enrolled in universities across Japan.

I think it is the easiest way for students and young people from Japan and China to build trusting relationships through mutual exchange and improve their skills through mutual learning; at the same time it is the best way to connect the hearts of the people in both countries.

The aforementioned increase in the number of Chinese visitors coming to Japan is welcomed across my country as a direct positive contribution to the recovery of the Japanese economy. Last year, Chinese tourists accounted for around forty percent of all foreign visitors to Japan. With the full support of the government, Japan is currently preparing to become one of the world's leading tourist destinations. China is one of the countries that is benefiting from a strategic easing of visa regulations.

However, the increase in visitors from China to Japan is not to be welcomed for economic reasons alone. By getting to know Japan directly, having a wide variety of experiences and exchanging ideas, the people from China deepen their understanding of Japan at the same time. This is also very welcome. In fact, I was told that many Chinese who visited Japan were impressed by the friendliness of the people they saw there.

Japan offers a wealth of different charms: cutting-edge technologies, a food culture and Japanese sake that are famous around the world, a mentality of craftsmanship that is expressed in the manufacture of high-quality products, the hospitality, first-class service that is so typical of Japan, or a beautiful landscape in the course of the four seasons. Recently, there has also been a diversification of travel destinations for Chinese visitors: They no longer just come to shop, but now also visit villages with their picturesque view of rice fields under a clear blue sky. Others walk through old towns in the regions and get an insight into everyday life of the Japanese, and still others stay in small pensions to enjoy the simple but warm hospitality. I hope that more people from China will come to Japan here and get to know and understand our country with my own eyes.

At the same time, however, I also expect the Chinese side to make sincere efforts to dispel the concerns of the people in Japan about China, as they are expressed in the aforementioned poor poll values, and also to do something to improve the feelings of the people in China improve again compared to Japan.

5. Conclusion

Sino-Japanese relations have always been difficult to manage. Since the two countries live in close proximity to one another, friction is easy; a very patient approach is required here. I would like to emphasize once again that the creation of bilateral relations that are appropriate for the new era will be of benefit to the people in both countries. At the same time, this is what the region and the world expect from us.

If nothing comes between, I will visit China at the end of the month and speak openly with Chinese leaders about how we can shape Sino-Japanese relations that are appropriate for the new era.

So far, I have met Foreign Minister Wang Yi seven times for talks, including phone calls, but this will be my first bilateral visit as Foreign Minister to China. At the same time, it is the first visit by a Japanese foreign minister to China in four years if you only count the bilateral meetings and ignore the visits to international summits. While bilateral relations are currently on the mend, there are still many tasks to be done and the road to shaping Sino-Japanese relations appropriate to the new era will not be an easy one. Nevertheless, I am convinced that if we conduct an open dialogue with the people in China on the most varied of levels and do not ignore the painful, and if both sides make genuine efforts to shape bilateral relations that are really appropriate for the new era, is possible. I would like to use the upcoming visit to China as a first step in this direction.

This year, probably in the second half, a meeting of the foreign ministers of Japan, China and the Republic of Korea will be held in Japan. A high-level Japanese-Chinese economic dialogue is also planned in this country. In China, the G20 summit will take place in Hangzhou in September. My visit to China thus marks the start of a whole series of meetings between the heads of government and foreign ministers of Japan and China this year. I would like to close this lecture with the promise that I will do all I can to ensure the success of this visit in order to lay the foundations for the Sino-Japanese relations this year.

Many Thanks.